Pursley Pep Talks: Little Things Make a Big Difference

Swimming World will publish a collection of coaching perspectives written by Alabama head swimming coach Dennis Pursley. This is the ninth installment of a series that will be rolled out throughout the coming months.

We have often heard it said, “Little things make a big difference,” and there is much truth to this statement in sport. Technical efficiency in starts, turns and finishes often determines who wins the race. “Minor” adjustments in stroke technique will sometimes have a major impact on performance results. Especially at the elite level of performance, the “little things” will frequently make the difference between success and failure. Too often, it is these important “little things” that are neglected or overlooked altogether.

Many of us are inclined to focus all of our attention on the major events, opportunities and challenges in our lives. We tell ourselves that what really matters is to rise to the occasion when it really counts, and that the “little things” are insignificant and unimportant.

There are two major flaws in this line of thinking:
• First, for most of us, the major events and opportunities are few and far between. The mundane daily routine (i.e., the “little things”) comprises 99 percent of our lives. In this respect, it is the “little things” that determine who we are as athletes and as people. If we restrict our best efforts to the major events, we will fall well short of our potential.
• Second, it is precisely through committing our best efforts to the “little things” that we better prepare ourselves for success when confronted with the major challenges in life.
These “little things” do in fact make a big difference, and our best effort becomes a part of whom we are if we apply it on a daily basis. To be the best that we can be in everything that we do is to live life to the fullest extent. Why settle for anything less?

About Dennis Pursley
After getting his start as a volunteer coach on Don Gambril’s first Alabama staff, current Alabama head coach Dennis Pursley has gone on to one of the most extraordinary careers in the sport of swimming, a career that led him to be named one of the 25 most influential people in the history of USA Swimming in 2003.

Pursley has helmed coaching staffs throughout the world, including stops as the first head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport, the inaugural director of the United States National Team and most recently the head coach of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic squad. Pursley returned to the deck in 2003 as the head coach of the Brophy East Swim Team in Phoenix Ariz., before becoming the head coach of British Swimming in 2008.

Pursley and his wife Mary Jo have five children, Lisa, Brian, David, Steven and J.J. Lisa and David have joined him on the Alabama staff.

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Author: Jason Marsteller

Jason Marsteller is the general manager of digital properties at Swimming World. He joined Swimming World in June 2006 as the managing editor after previous stints as a media relations professional at Indiana University, the University of Tennessee, Southern Utah University and the Utah Summer Games.

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